Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)


Department: Classics and Ancient History


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None.


  • Work in Classical Literature and/or Ancient History at Level 3.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • In accordance with the general aims of the MA in Classics, to promote self-motivated and self-directed research in a specific aspect of the ancient world, i.e. the means and strategies for the preservation and transmission of information in the ancient world. Moreover, in accordance with the specific aims of the MA in Greece, Rome and the Near East, to foreground attention to cultural differences and specificities through a comparative approach.


  • The focus of the course will be on the preservation and transmission of information in ancient Greece, Rome and the Near East, looked at under a comparative angle. Topics include the organization of archives and libraries; oral communication and epistolary writing; and epigraphical displays. The source material considered includes clay tablets, inscriptions, papyri, ostraca, archaeological remains, and literary sources. The overall interpretive approach will be centred on socio-cultural and historical issues, with a special emphasis on the correlation between particular 'storage systems' and the societies that cultivated them.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • close knowledge of a wide range of questions (and archaeological sites) linked to the preservation of ancient documents, as well as of literary, papyrological and epigraphical documents;
  • a rich understanding of the importance of archival practices and communication strategies in the ancient Mediterranean and the Near East;
  • appreciation of the methodological questions raised by the study of this type of material.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will need to develop the historical and philological skills relevant to the analytic evaluation of a wide range of sources. They will be challenged to construct plausible arguments about complex historical data and develop a wide variety of skills to do with the sophisticated understanding of cultural production (such as the emergence and evolution of a literary genre, transmission and canonization, textual hermeneutics, the functioning of oral and written communication, the relationship between ideology and media of communication).
Key Skills:
  • The analytical and interpretative skills required for the successful completion of this module are transferable to any field which demands sophisticated understanding of texts and their meaning and the construction of plausible arguments about historical and literary evidence.
  • It also requires the effective use of library and IT resources and good written presentation skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be in classes, in which the time will be split between survey introductory lectures given by the instructor, and student presentations based on in-depth individual research. Assessment will take the form of one formative essay (c. 2500 words), based on an in-class presentation, and to be handed in early in Epiphany Term; and one summative essay (5000 words) based on a second in-class presentation, to be handed in in Easter Term. Classes and introductory lectures will help the students to orient themselves in the field; student presentations offer the opportunity for early and constructive feedback before the written assignments are due; formative essay after Christmas ensures writing practice and early written feedback, in good time for it to be of use for the summative work.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Classes 8 fortnightly 2 16
Preperation and Reading 284
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Long essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One formative essay (c. 2500 words), based on an in-class presentation, and to be handed in early in Epiphany Term

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University